Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia…Surprisingly Dope
Location: Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
I never thought I'd end up in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.
Certainly never planned on actually *liking* the place — but here we are.
The biggest city in Bolivia is kind of dope, and I wouldn't have believed it unless I'd done seen it with my own two eyes.
See what had happened was…
I'd just spent the past month and a half traveling around Argentinian Patagonia like a madman. Hiking, tourism, and little-to-no work.
A damn good time, but I wasn't sure I could continue on to the Chilean side. Patagonia was amazing, but I needed stability. I needed fast Wi-Fi. Hell, I needed Airbnb hosts who offered some modicum of customer service — something many an Argentinian lacked.
So my travel buddy and I sat down. We were planning to spend a full month in Chilean Patagonia, but nixed the plan altogether.
We had a free month and the question became…where to next?
Maps were opened, ideas thrown out, Wi-Fi speeds checked, and then for some odd reason — we settled on Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Yep, fookin' Bolivia.
Within an hour we had booked flights and Airbnbs. Plans made at the final hour.
Upon arrival, I hadn't a clue what to expect. Well, except that Bolivian immigration can be a real b*tch.
Luckily, that wasn't an issue and we rolled into Santa Cruz de la Sierra sin problemas.
The only *issue* during my whole stay in Bolivia?
I, surprisingly, enjoyed the hell out of my time there — and here's why…
7 “Cosas” to Know about Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
Alright, so enough of me fluff in ye' intro there…let's dig into the nitty gritty.
What makes Santa Cruz de la Sierra kinda dope? Would I recommend the spot to travelers and expats alike?
Here's the details:
City living has it's pluses and minuses.
One of the minuses? Often it can take hours to get outside a city's urban center and into a lil' nature.
Not in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Within 15-30 minutes, if there's no traffic, you can easily find yourself in wide open spaces, fresh air, and stunning natural landscapes.
It was incredible living in a “big'ish” city with all the modern amenities one would want — while still being able to go on hikes or hit the sand dunes in a quick day trip.
I barely scratched the surface of things to do in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. But if you're the type of person who enjoys exploring nature on the weekends, you'll love it here.
Not only is it easy to get into nature and explore, but the animals and wildlife in Bolivia is truly world-class.
Hell, people come to the country from all over the world — with the sole intention of seeing anacondas, jaguars, pumas, monkeys, and sloths in the wild.
Bolivia is home to flatlands, Andes Mountains, the Pantanal, and the Amazon River — so the array of wildlife and bio-diversity is exceptional.
And the best part?
Many of these wildlife viewing opportunities and tours start in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. You can book a tour to see sloths and monkeys within the city limits.
A few hours away and you'll find the start of the Bolivian Pantanal, one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet.
If combining city living with wildly fascinating wildlife is of interest to you, Santa Cruz de la Sierra is a pretty dope spot.
After being on my best behavior in Argentinian Patagonia, I need to let loose a little bit on the weekends while in Bolivia.
Luckily, ole' Santa Cruz de la Sierra did not disappoint in that regard.
The nightlife in the biggest city in Bolivia is a lot like the surrounding regions — wild.
From bars to clubs, I never knew where the night would go while partying in SCZ…but sh*t popped off every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
However, this isn't a “bottles and models” type of city. People here go out to have fun and truly let loose. Expect the unexpected when enjoying a big night out here.
And of course, your boy may have sampled a few “cosas” made by hand and heart in Bolivia. If you're into all that jazz, you will *NOT* be disappointed, either.
P.S: “La Rota Carlota” is one hell of a time if you're looking for a club recommendation.
My preconceived notions about Bolivia had me thinking there wouldn't be much in terms of development in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
And make no mistake about it, this place still has some developing to do.
All that being said — the city offers every modern amenity a man could want. From great gyms to world-class yoga studios to solid restaurants, plus coworking spaces and high-speed Wi-Fi…I wasn't missing for much here.
There's a couple massive, modern malls here too — along with big hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, etc.
Suffice to say, you'll find everything you need to live good and get some work done while in SCZ.
Not too mention my favorite amenity…
After every big night out enjoy a little too many of Bolivia's finer things, my buddies and I would hit up the sauna/cold tub combo for a few hours — while sipping some Bolivian green drink that supposedly helped hangovers.
Not Overrun w/ Expats
I harbor quite a distain for places overrun with expats and travelers — preferring to experience a city's culture for what it is and without much foreign influence.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is a bit different.
In fact, I'd venture to say I only spoke English, outside of convos with my buddies, 3-4 times during my whole stay in SCZ.
Legit can remember every instance because of how rare it was…
The Australian tour company operator, the Dutch guy who was recovering from a hangover at the sauna too, one expat riding the stationary bike at the gym, and one girl who was an orthodontist and spoke English because she had to learn when studying.
Suffice to say…
You won't find much English or many expats/tourists. There's a few, but nothing like what's become the norm in Latin America these days.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia is still relatively unknown and unspoiled by the “gringo” world.
The “gente” in Santa Cruz de la Sierra were pretty friendly and laidback.
I had a great time chatting with and getting to know some locals, especially when my Airbnb host told a story of how he lived in a village in the Amazon River for six months and hunted alligators.
Yes…dude legit hunted alligators on the regular. I saw the pictures.
Pretty sure the only people the SCZ locals didn't like were the other Bolivians living in La Paz. But got damn! The locals in SCZ really didn't like the people and politics in La Paz.
Every single time a discussion turned towards La Paz and the Andes, the first thing SCZ locals said were how “frio” the people on that side of the country are — especially towards outsiders.
Lots of ill-will and animosity between the two biggest cities in Bolivia — cities with significantly different views on life, politics, and more.
Bolivian people are cool.
Locals in SCZ made my stay a lot of fun. Every night me and my buddies went out people wanted to talk with us, ask us what we thought about Santa Cruz de la Sierra, etc.
And the women…far better looking than what I expected Bolivian girls to look. I'll leave it at that. Errr, and the influx of Brazilian medical students didn't hurt either.
Oh, and una cosita mas:
–> Spanish is damn near a ‘MUST' in Bolivia. Click here for info on the easiest way to learn Spanish!
Life in Santa Cruz de la Sierra is cheap, cheap.
I'm talking $500-800 USD a month for a “luxury” apartment in one of the nicer areas of the city — pool, gym, amenities, etc. and all in a walkable area.
Bottles at a nightclub, one of the nicer ones in the city, costs around $30 USD with mixers.
Meals can be found for $3-5 USD in nice cafes.
Uber rides for $2 USD around the city.
I could go on and on here, but here's the reality of the cost of living in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia:
You could easily live good for $1,500 USD a month.
And in reality, it would be hard to spend more than $2,000 USD a month. You'd be balling, balling at that point.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia…Surprisingly Dope
I certainly didn't know what to expect on my first trip to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Hell, I had little expectations at all.
However, I left impressed.
Might even come back in the near future to enjoy some more of the wild nightlife and wonderful wildlife around the city and country — although, I'd only comeback with a broski or two, as the lack of expats means you'll want to arrive with a crew.
Overall, if city living combined with world-class naturaleza sounds pretty good to you, then Santa Cruz de la Sierra will surprise you — in a good way.
P.S: Full city guide coming soon…